Aerobic exercise training, especially Zumba dancing, were found to be associated with an improvement in working memory and a decrease in the severity of depression among patients with fibromyalgia, a study shows.
The study, “Zumba dancing and aerobic exercise can improve working memory, motor function, and depressive symptoms in female patients with Fibromyalgia,” was published in the European Journal of Sport Science.
Patients with fibromyalgia often have impaired cognitive function and severe depression. Studies also have shown that working memory, which is critical for cognitive processes in everyday life, is significantly impaired among those with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia patients also have compromised motor function and tend to be less physically active than their healthy counterparts.
While physical activity and exercise therapy are not a typical part of the standard treatment for this disease, there is increasing evidence that regular participation in activities involving physical exertion can have a positive effect on the psychological and cognitive functioning of fibromyalgia patients.
However, little is known about which activities might be most beneficial for these patients.
Therefore, researchers set out to conduct a study to compare the impact of two different interventions — aerobic exercise training, and Zumba dancing — on the working memory, motor function, and symptoms of depression among females with fibromyalgia.
A total of 60 females with fibromyalgia, at an average of 35.76 years old, participated in the study. Participants were given standard care along with the study interventions.
Participants were randomly assigned to do either aerobic exercise training or Zumba dancing, or to participate in a control condition during a 12-week period.
The control condition included gathering at a clinic three times per week for group meetings to account for the possible effects of social interaction with other participants.
Researchers assessed the participants’ working memory (n-back task), motor function (Timed Up and Go test), and severity of depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory-second edition) at both the start of the study and 12 weeks after the end of the intervention.
Results indicated that working memory, motor function and depressive symptoms improved over time, but only in patients that underwent aerobic exercise training or Zumba.
Statistical analyses showed that improvements were greatest among participants who did Zumba, followed by participants who engaged in aerobic exercise training. However, these effects did not reach clinical relevance, the authors cautioned.
The scores across all three domains in the control group remained virtually unchanged over the course of the 12 weeks.
“Aerobic exercise training and Zumba dancing can be recommended as add-ons to standard care to improve working memory and to reduce severity of depressive symptoms among female patients with [fibromyalgia],” the authors said. “It is suggested that in future studies Zumba dancing should be compared with other forms of exercise training, such as strength training, with respect to effects on motor and cognitive function.”